Green with envy

Brittney Trojanowski

Take a look around. Many things in our world are associated with the color green.

It could be a mediator between the stressed people heading home in rush hour traffic. It could remind others of money and how desperately some people need it to be happy. It could even be slapped onto a worldwide campaign to help reduce our carbon footprint and to become more “green.”

These are probably the first things we think of when we think of the word green.

But when someone says envy, one might recall Shakespeare’s reference to the green-eyed monster in his play, “Othello.”

Today, “green with envy” means that one is envious of someone or something.

Before Shakespeare coined the term, the Greeks thought when you were ill or jealous, the body produced too much bile, giving the skin a green tint, according to online research.

“Shakespeare verbally yoked ‘green’ to ‘jealousy’ in the 1590s, and that connection has been gaining linguistic ascendancy since the early 18th century, when English culture unofficially dubbed Shakespeare our language’s greatest writer,” said English professor Don-John Dugas, who teaches a Shakespeare class.

The verb “to green” means “to desire earnestly and is linked through its history to our modern English word ‘yearn,’” Dugas said.

“The exact meaning of the phrase is a bit confusing because Shakespeare seems to have combined several different meanings of the word green, only one of which is the color we now think of as the principal meaning of that word,” said Dugas.

Though we can’t go back in time to question Shakespeare, we accept how he used the word green to represent envy or jealousy because of his great legacy on English literature.

Like many words and phrases we use today, the meaning of “green with envy” has developed throughout history.

Contact Brittney Trojanowski at [email protected].